NASA's asteroid hunt offers USD 35,000 to citizen scientists

Mar 11 2014, 20:20 IST
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SummaryGood news for amateur astronomers! NASA is offering USD 35,000 in awards over the next six months.

Good news for amateur astronomers! NASA is offering USD 35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.

NASA's Asteroid Data Hunter contest series challenges participants to develop significantly improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes.

The winning solution must increase the detection sensitivity, minimise the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems.

The first contest in the series will kick off on March 17 and the entire series runs through August.

"For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems," said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director.

"We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis," Crusan said.

"Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are," said Jenn Gustetic, Prizes and Challenges Programme executive.

"By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge," Gustetic said.

The contest series is being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc of Bellevue, Washington.

"Current asteroid detection initiatives are only tracking one per cent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun. We are excited to partner with NASA in this contest to help increase the quantity and knowledge about asteroids that are potential threats, human destinations, or resource rich," said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, Inc.

"Applying distributed algorithm and coding skills to the extensive NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey data set will yield important insights into the state of the art in detecting asteroids," Lewicki said.

Through NASA's asteroid initiative, the agency seeks to enhance its ongoing work in the identification and characterisation of near-Earth objects for further scientific investigation.

This work includes locating potentially hazardous asteroids and identifying those viable for redirection to a stable lunar orbit for future exploration by astronauts.

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